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Haiku couple together till the end: Like Romeo and Juliet

Married for 68 years, Maurice and Gloria Valoroso died within days of each other

Lani Valoroso holds photos of her mother, Gloria, and father, Maurice, in their longtime home in Haiku. The photos were taken when she became a nurse and he became a chef. The Maui News / LILA FUJIMOTO photo

HAIKU — When Maurice and Gloria Valoroso died within days of each other soon after their 68th wedding anniversary, it reaffirmed the love and togetherness that marked the Haiku couple’s lives.

“As we were growing up, they always made it an issue that no matter what happened during the day, by the end we would forgive each other, whatever we did wrong, and start a brand new day knowing there was hope for us as a family,” said Lani Valoroso, the oldest of the couple’s four children. “That was something I always admired.”

The couple were married in 1952 at the Wailuku courthouse, then had another ceremony at St. Rita Church in Haiku.

They celebrated their last wedding anniversary Nov. 29. Gloria Valoroso died the next day at age 87. Four days later, on Dec. 4, Maurice Valoroso died at age 88.

“When they died the way they did, I kept thinking of Romeo and Juliet,” Lani Valoroso said. “These two loves weren’t supposed to get together and yet they died together.

Maurice and Gloria Valoroso are shown at a party for their 55th wedding anniversary. Photo courtesy Valoroso family

“No marriage is perfect, but then they worked at it. They worked at it until they died.”

Both were born on Maui, she at Paia hospital and he at home with a midwife in Haiku. They grew up in different plantation camps in Haiku.

“They played around in the same area, and everybody knew everybody,” Lani Valoroso said. “At first, they never liked each other.”

While Maurice left school after the 8th grade to work as a planter and picker in nearby pineapple fields, Gloria graduated from the Old Maui High School at Hamakuapoko.

After marrying, they settled in a new three-bedroom, one-bathroom Hicks home that they bought in Haiku, not far from where they grew up.

“My mom said most of the money came from her tips that she made as a waitress,” Lani Valoroso said. “She carried this big bag with the down payment,” only to be told she had to change the coins into bills.

Maurice Valoroso later became a cook at the Sheraton Maui Resort in Kaanapali, while his wife worked there as a waitress.

“My dad loved to cook, but the one thing he never did was cook for us at home,” Lani Valoroso said. “We always cooked for him. He would eat, he would never complain.”

She said he preferred simple salt-and-pepper seasonings over the more elaborate dishes he served at work.

Later, he worked as a cook at Kula Hospital while Gloria Valoroso worked as a nurse’s aide at Hale Makua in Wailuku.

One patient there had a daughter who worked at Maui Memorial Medical Center. Impressed by the care Gloria gave her father, the daughter asked if Gloria wanted to work at the hospital, Lani Valoroso said.

Gloria worked at the hospital until she retired, at the same time Maurice retired from Kula Hospital. Afterward, he worked as a postal carrier at the Haiku Post Office.

“Mom was always taking care of people,” Lani Valoroso said. “Nursing was her life. She’s softhearted in so many ways, yet she’s stern when we grew up.”

Although both parents were busy working, “they always find time to be with us,” said Angela Estrella, the second oldest child.

“With mom and dad, family was really important,” she said. “No matter how upset they would get with one of us kids, they would still show the love that they had for us. They cannot be mad forever. They just melt. They were the best parents.

“They always gave us what we needed. They taught us responsibility, which is good ’cause it came in handy in life.”

Lani Valoroso remembered, after a big fight between her parents when she was in high school, telling them to “either end it or tell each other how you really feel.”

“My dad told my mom, ‘She’s right. No matter what, no matter how bad of a person I was, I always came home to you, and that’s how it’s going to be for the rest of your life. You are my life. You have my children. You are part of me and I’m part of you. When you die, I die,’ “ Lani Valoroso recalled.

“My mom said, ‘That’s true. I love you, too.’ “

The couple faithfully attended St. Rita Church near their home.

“They used to go and clean the church,” Estrella said. “They would decorate the church. Whatever the church need, they would always be there volunteering.”

Both became Eucharistic ministers. Their faith even took them abroad to see a priest with stigmata, Lani Valoroso said.

“They did everything together,” Estrella said. “If mom was going to go out in the yard and do her orchids and anthuriums, she would say, ‘Valoroso, come, come,’ “ using her nickname for her husband, Estrella said. “Both of them would be out there in the yard.”

Estrella recalled how her mother would prepare food for family gatherings of 30 to 35 people at Christmas and other special occasions. “And before anybody left, she always made sure they had a plate to take home,” she said.

About 10 years ago, with her parents ailing, Estrella said she took over the family gatherings and her parents came to live with her in Paia, returning to their house in Haiku from Friday to Sunday when Lani Valoroso and others would help watch them.

Even in wheelchairs, they would try to get to church, she said.

“When they got sick, they had a hard time walking,” Estrella said. “The priest would come to my house and he would give them their communion, say a prayer for them.”

Estrella had taken her grandson to Oahu for surgery and her parents were staying at their home last year when Maurice went to the hospital for surgery, said Lani Valoroso, who was with her parents.

Unable to visit Maurice in the hospital because of COVID-19, Gloria would talk to him on the phone every night.

“She started crying and missing him because they were never apart for very long,” Lani Valoroso said. “For that moment she talked with him, she was fine.”

In the three weeks her father was in the hospital, her mother’s health deteriorated, Lani Valoroso said.

“When he left, she was fine, she was still walking and talking, even though at times she didn’t know what she was saying,” she said. “When we found out he was coming home, my mom was already in a coma.

“When he came home, he was hurt. He was so hurt. He actually stood up and held my mom’s hand and said, ‘I love you. If you need to go home, go.’ “

Family members were by her side when she died and also when he died.

“It was hard,” Lani Valoroso said. “He couldn’t see his life without her. That’s why he stopped eating altogether.”

“I knew he missed mom,” Estrella said. “I had my son lie on the bed with dad, and dad would open his eyes and look at him. They would fall asleep and they would wake up.”

When her sisters and brother said Estrella needed to let their father know it was OK for him to follow their mother, it was hard, she said.

“You guys never were apart,” she told her father. “We know you need mom. If you need to go, then it’s OK.”

“Within a half-hour, he passed,” she said.

The couple are also survived by their son, Edward Valoroso, and youngest daughter Roxanne “Taiso” Valoroso.

A drive-thru service for the couple took place Saturday at Ballard Family Mortuary.

Family members planned a procession from the mortuary to the couple’s Haiku home and St. Rita Church before the burial later in the afternoon at Maui Memorial Park in Wailuku.

“That was their last request — to die at home and to see the house and the church before they’re buried,” Lani Valoroso said. “They did a lot for us. We just want to make sure they’re settled and they’re happy wherever they’re going.”

* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at lfujimoto@mauinews.com.

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